Viva! Poland...Back in action for horses By Cezary
By Cezary Wyszynski, Manager
Morskie Oko is the largest and fourth deepest lake in the polish Tatra Mountains, located deep within the Tatra National Park in the Rybi Potok Valley – and it is breathtakingly beautiful. What isn’t so beautiful is the treatment of the carriage horses who are forced to drag carts loaded with up to 13 tourists up a steep, seven-kilometre long road. The total weight is around 3,000kg, 1,000kg over the limit for draft horses. In winter it is even worse when the horses have to drag loaded sleighs – not on snow as that is cleared but on asphalt, causing enormous drag.
Polish law is unequivocal and clearly states that horses, or any other animal, should not have to haul loads that are too heavy for them and to force them to do so constitutes mistreatment or even torture, with a sentence of up to two years in prison for the guilty. Our evidence leaves no doubt that these horses are maltreated.
The Polish National Horse Breeders Association has shown that, between January 1, 2012 and the first half of June 2013, 44 horses were taken to the slaughterhouse, their average working life on the road less than a year. Some were as young as four years old and had worked for a couple of months only. During the same period, three horses died from exhaustion while working.
What sparked Viva!’s involvement was when a horse was filmed dying still tethered to the tourist cart back in 2009. Viva!, along with other animal rights groups, appealed to the Director of the Tatra National Park, police and local government officials to immediately end this animal abuse. We received no worthwhile response.
In 2014, the groups acted peacefully together to prevent further animal torture and blocked the road up to Morskie Oko but the carters tried to drive their horses through us with their fully-laden carts.
Viva!’s Anna Plaszczyk says: “It’s hard to believe that the wagon owners didn’t seem to care that protesters could be injured or even killed. The poor horses were pulled by their harness towards the sitting people but they resisted, shying away and rearing as they did not want to step on us. It’s a miracle nobody was killed.”
Two animal rights activists were seriously injured as several men attacked them with metal objects, one taken to hospital with broken ribs and facial fractures. Another, a woman, was hit with a metal ladder that fractured her shinbone and damaged ankle ligaments. We were shocked by the fierceness of the attack by the horse owners, who didn’t care who they hit – men or women.
All this in the middle of the Tatra Mountains, on the road to one of the most beautiful lakes in the world! Currently, around 300 horses are working on the road to Morskie Oko and we are jointly calling for a total ban on the tourist wagons.
We are more than happy to adopt all these horses to save them from the slaughterhouse.
We have an official petition so far signed by over 100 Polish animal rights groups and 90,000 Polish citizens.